Braves decide to remove Blair from rotation

Braves decide to remove Blair from rotation

ATLANTA -- Instead of sending Aaron Blair to the mound every five days with the hope he will eventually figure it out, the Braves have decided to remove Blair from the rotation to give him time to work on his mechanics.

"We want to kind of back him off starting and do some work with him mechanically," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "[Pitching coach Roger McDowell] has seen some things he thinks will help him down the road. He needs some concentrated work here without us just running him out there, just hoping he gets through it."

After Blair returned from a two-month demotion to Triple-A Gwinnett and allowed three home runs over just four innings during Sunday's loss in San Francisco, he said he needed to bring a "tougher approach" to the mound.

But while debating whether to give Blair another start, the Braves determined added aggression won't completely solve the mechanical flaws that have led to an 8.23 ERA through 12 big league starts.

When he was acquired from the D-backs in December, Blair ranked among MLB.com's Top 100 prospects and was deemed Major League ready by multiple scouts. But since showing promise during the first three starts of his career, the 24-year-old hurler has created reason to doubt if he's currently ready to succeed at the big league level. Blair has produced a 10.33 ERA over his past nine starts. Maybe more worrisome is the fact he also produced a 5.98 ERA over the nine starts completed after being sent to Gwinnett near the end of June.

Snitker did not rule out the possibility Blair will make at least one more start this year, but at the same time, he indicated the big right-hander might also be given some multi-inning assignments out of the bullpen.

"I don't know if he'll make a start or pitch [out of the bullpen]," Snitker said. "But we're going to get him back out there competitively before the year is over. It might happen sooner than what we have planned."

Worth noting

• With Blair being skipped, Joel De La Cruz will start Friday's series opener in Philadelphia. The initial plan was to use De La Cruz as a reliever for the remainder of the year. But he'll make at least one more start as the Braves evaluate Blair and also wait until the conclusion of Triple-A Gwinnett season to promote two other potential starting pitchers -- Tyrell Jenkins and Jed Bradley.

• Catcher A.J. Pierzynski and right-handed reliever Chris Withrow will likely be the only additions when the active roster is expanded before Thursday afternoon's series finale against the Padres. The Braves will bring another wave of players up after the Minor League season concludes.

• Left-handed reliever Eric O'Flaherty will miss the remainder of the season while recovering from what Snitker described as a surgical procedure to clear some debris that was preventing the veteran southpaw from fulling extending his left arm.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.